Muhammad Ali Khalidi
Scientific Taxonomy, Crosscutting Categories, and Natural Kinds
Scientific theories classify the natural world in various ways. I have defended the idea that there can be crosscutting classification schemes of a certain scientific domain, and that these classification schemes can coexist comfortably since they relate to different interests. I have also used this notion of crosscutting classifications to characterize the relationship between psychology and neuroscience, distinguishing it from the relation of multiple realizability. In recent work, I have been investigating human and social kinds and defending a naturalist and non-essentialist understanding of natural kinds, and I've written a book on these topics entitled Natural Categories and Human Kinds (Cambridge University Press, 2013).
Innateness, Domain Specificity, and Modularity in Cognitive Science
What is it for a cogntive capacity to be innate? I have proposed a "triggering model" of innateness, which holds that an innate cognitive capacity is one that has a tendency to be manifested as a result of an impoverished input. In one article, I have argued that innateness remains a viable scientific concept when understood in these terms. In another, I have defended this account against competing models of innateness. I have also written an article distinguishing innateness from domain-specificity and modularity, two concepts with which it is often conflated.
Social Kinds, Social Ontology, and Philosophy of Social Science
In what respects are the social sciences similar to and different from the natural sciences? Do the categories of the social sciences correspond to social or human kinds, as the categories of the natural sciences correspond to natural kinds? Do human or social kinds have characteristics that set them apart, such as their evaluative or normative dimensions, their interactivity, or their ontological subjectivity? I have argued that these alleged differences between natural and social kinds are either exaggerated or do not pose an obstacle to there being kinds in the social realm, as in the natural realm.
Concepts, Conceptual Change, and Incommensurability
What is a concept, in light of contemporary research in cognitive science? I have argued that there may be two different concepts of concept that are applicable at different levels of description and explanation. From the intentional stance, concepts can be viewed as theoretical posits that are attributed on the basis of an interpretive theory of mind and language. Using this account of concepts, I have argued against incommensurable conceptual schemes at different developmental stages (in opposition to some cognitive psychologists). I have also written an entry for a reference work on the notion of conceptual incommensurability in the philosophy of science.
Medieval Islamic Philosophy and Its Interpretation
I have translated and edited a selection of texts by medieval Islamic philosophers (Farabi, Avicenna, Ghazali, Ibn Tufayl, and Averroes), focusing on metaphysical and epistemological issues: Medieval Islamic Philosophical Writings (Cambridge University Press, 2005). I have also written an article on Farabi's conception of the democratic city, and another on Averroes' position on miracles and the eternity of the universe. A more recent article consists of a critique of three different types of Orientalist interpretations of Islamic philosophy.
"Averroes' Method of Re-Interpretation," International Philosophical Quarterly 38 (1998), 175-185.